E. The Modern Era

Social Action

Alice in Blunderland DumbartonLooking Outside Its Walls. No longer a neighborhood church, Dumbarton drew college students from Georgetown and nearby areas and social activists from the suburbs to renew itself. Previously nonpolitical, the church now immersed itself in civil rights marches, peace rallies and local and world affairs. A Dumbarton-performed traveling musical, “Alice In Blunderland,” nuclear disarmanent. The church became nationally known as a leader in progressive Christianity.

Gun Control:  In 1974, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church adopted a first-of-its-kind resolution calling for a national ban on the manufacture, sale, and private possession of handguns, with exemptions for police, military, and licensed security guards.  The UMC turned to Dumbarton parishioner Mike Beard to create an organization to implement this resolution.  Mike persuaded DC's Congressman Walter Fauntroy to convene a meeting of 15 national religious organizations.  In January, 1975, they agreed to create a National Coalition To Ban Handguns as a "special project" of the UMC, and elected Mike Beard its executive director.  The NCBH was immediately attacked by the National Rifle Association, but one of its first victories was federal legislation eliminating the manufacture and importation of small, cheap handguns – so-called Saturday Night Specials.  With the growing threat of assault weapons and the changing nature of gun violence, NCBH changed its name to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and concentrated on gun control issue research, which began a natural evolution to its current incarnation as part of the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy

Sanctuary. In 1985, Dumbarton helped a Salvadoran refugee from political violence enter the country illegally. This act was part of the national sanctuary movement, in which churches defied Reagan-era law by taking undocumented persons under their wings. Dumbarton sheltered "America Sosa," then head of the El Salvadoran Mothers of the Disappeared, who had lost her husband and a son to government death squads and changed her name in the U.S. to escape reprisal.  America was soon invited to many college and university campuses to tell her story, and exposed the truth about U.S. policies on El Salvador for more than a year until her arrest by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  The church then funded her legal defense, obtained her political asylum and a green card.  She was a U.S. citizen when she died of natural causes shortly after the turn of the century.  From the 1980's through 2008. church members also took several mission trips to Latin America and Palestine to observe conditions, help rebuild a town in Nicaragua after the 1998 Hurrican Mitch disaster, upgrade a mission in Honduras to provide higher education for orphanage graduates, and recommend policy changes.

Sexual Identity. Dumbarton became a reconciling congregation in 1987 to welcome gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals. Many of them joined the church, grateful for the opportunity to worship openly with their sexual identities. The church has thrived ever since as a vibrant, relaxed, but engaged community, and it celebrates its decision to become a reconciling congregation every year at Mardi Gras. When the District of Columbia legalized same-sex marriage in 2009, Dumbarton became the first United Methodist congregation in the city to agree to perform such weddings, despite opposition from the larger United Methodist church.  Ever since 1987, Dumbarton has been a national leader in advocating the removal of the national Methodist denomination's homophobic policies.